Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Reflections on a Halloween night

When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,
May luck be yours on Halloween.

Reflecting upon my childhood, one thing I looked forward to each year was Halloween. 

Last night, over the course of two and one-half hours, kids – white, black, Asian, Hispanic – were out in great enthusiasm, if not in great numbers, in our Oakland, Calif., neighborhood celebrating Halloween. They represented a microcosm of the city at large. They came full of enthusiasm, and they dressed in wonderful, creative – even traditional – costumes. 

One of my favorite Jack O' Lanterns
Some reflections on this latest Halloween evening:

• Dressing up as a ghost or witch, as traditional a costume as you'll see, is still quite popular as well as going trick-or-treating decked out as a super hero like Batman, Spiderman or Superman. Years after their motion picture debuts, Darth Vader and Harry Potter still garner a lot of attention, no doubt thanks to their movie-star appeal – and both remain among my favorites. As a kid, I remember dressing up as a NASA astronaut back when kids aspired to be astronauts and fly to the moon. Simpler times, I guess.

• This year, my favorite surprise was a tiny three-year-old girl who dressed up as a beautiful hand-knitted farm hen.  Of course, it's always cute to see little kids dress up as lovely and cuddly tigers and dinosaurs, too. Whether homemade or store bought, imaginative costumes are what make Halloween special.

• In recent years, there's been more and more parental chaperones present on Halloween evening – many in costume – and it's always fun to see a few toting their pet dogs and baby strollers for the littlest ones, too. While some youngsters are very eager and outgoing, ready to shout "Trick or Treat" at the top of their lungs, every year there's always a few kids who are quite timid and shy, especially the youngest ones. Parents do their best to coach their little ones, standing by the bottom step of our porch, whispering "trick or treat," then "thank you."

• Halloween has definitely turned into a family event -- a sporting event, maybe? -- and this year, we budgeted for 200 mini chocolate bar candies to give out! With rain in the forecast and temperatures in the low 60s, some kids got an early start on their trick-or-treating to beat any precipitation. (Around 7 p.m., there were a few sprinkles and out came the umbrellas. Fortunately, it was short lived.) Our first trick-or-treater came knocking at the door at 5:43 p.m., just before sunset, a young grade-school girl dressed as a fairy princess. By 6 p.m., we had greeted five, including a little toddler dress up as the Big Bad Wolf while his mother accompanied him as the Little Red Riding Hood. 

• Soon after and for the next couple of hours, a steady group of youngsters came knocking on our door, dressed as teenage mutant ninja turtles, robots, skeletons, assorted royalty, Hello Kitty, Pok√©mon, soldiers in camouflage, softball players, Raggedy Ann, Batgirl, Elsa from "Frozen," the Mad Hatter, assorted zombies from "The Walking Dead," the Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz," the Grim Reaper, "the Scream" (based upon the Edvard Munch painting), a couple of preppy middle school girls in white sweater dresses and matching black Urban Outfitter canvas bags, a beautifully attired Cleopatra, and on and on. Our best estimate is we greeted about 100-120 trick-or-treaters this year. 

A basket full of pumpkins / Happy Halloween!
• By 8:30 p.m., once the crowds had thinned, we turned out the lights, shut the front door, and treated ourselves to a few pieces of leftover candy. I love a good Kit Kat bar.

Looking back, the festiveness of Halloween left me in a happy, reflective mood. Indeed, it was another Happy Halloween – one of the most enjoyable evenings of the year – and I look forward to the next one.

Photos: Cover image, courtesy of Google Images. Pumpkin photos © Michael Dickens.

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